Monday, January 26, 2009

Blogger's Circles of Hell

So... I follow a blog called Sexy Witch which is a really cool compilation of artwork, photographs, etc from all eras of the past that depict witches that are... you guessed it... sexy. The blogger in question has been totally responsible about warning in the blog description that there are images that contain nudity, and posting a tag on each entry indicating whether it is "safe for work" or "not safe for work." But some idiot decided to flag the blog and now Sexy Witch is in danger of becoming an "internet ghost." The blogger protocol for a flagged blog is to "unlist" it, meaning it won't appear on search engines or be featured on the main blogger site anymore, plus anyone typing in the address manually will come upon a Content Warning screen.

Blogger claims that the flagging tool cannot be considered "censorship," and from a legal standpoint I'm sure they're right. They aren't censoring anybody. They're still free to post what content they like; it's just hidden away behind a veil and not allowed to be brought to the attention of anyone who might actively seek it (example: type "sexy witch" into a search engine and I'm guessing you're looking for sexy witches; but you wouldn't find the perfect resource because of this stupid policy!). While not limiting the freedom of speech, they are limiting public access, which is the death of a popular blogger.

If such a thing happened here I wouldn't care, because I treat this page like a journal that I and I alone read. If someone else stumbled upon it and read a passage here or there, I wouldn't care. I wouldn't post extremely personal information. But all the same, becoming an internet "ghost" wouldn't affect me much because I already am one, and happily so. But Sexy Witch is a community endeavor. Lots of people enjoy the posts, the historical and background information, the skillful artwork, and, of course, the sexy witches. It just sucks when some asshole with a bone to pick flags something he or she doesn't like instead of just doing the right thing and NOT BOTHERING TO READ IT. It'd be one thing if this page was using hate speech or posting actual pornography instead of just artistic nudity. But this was obviously a case where somebody abused the flagging system by flagging something they personally disliked as opposed to something that was universally unacceptable.

I would perhaps not be quite so pissed off about this if blogger had a better system in place to challenge flags or at least to allow users to directly contact them to inform them of flagging abuses. Instead they have what literally seems like the circles of hell. A quick Help Search leads you to a link that informs you that you can "directly contact" them with a problem, which leads you to a page where you can select one of several pre-typed options, or, if your option doesn't fit with any of these, where you can click on another link to take you to the Help Forum. There you post your complaint in more detail and someone may or may not, promptly or with great delay, eventually get around to "helping" you. They will at least respond, though this is usually a form letter type response that gives you the idea someone is checking you off a list, not really trying to help. In these cases, the site always seems to side with the more conservative party: the offended person wins the day no matter what arguments might be raised from the other side.

I have cousins whose parents are very conservative, and who found "The Little Mermaid" offensive because Ariel was wearing a seashell bra and they didn't want their children exposed to a bare female midriff. If someone flagged an image of Ariel on a blog, do you think they'd block the site? I certainly hope not, but what I've seen here is enough to lead me to wonder... she is, after all, a sexy mermaid. But I think, also, that she is obviously fictional, whereas the types of people who flag sites like Sexy Witch usually believe that witches are real, and quite dangerous and evil. So perhaps this isn't an issue of nudity at all... perhaps the flagger was more offended by the occult references on the page. If so, while it's not "censorship," blogger could be accused perhaps of assisting in religious persecution.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

25 Things

1. I've always secretly thought the bathroom is the coolest room in a house. Think about it: you both wash away outer dirt and get rid of inner dirt, purifying yourself. Weird? Yes. But cool.
2. Daffodils are my favorite flower, not necessarily because of how they look or smell but because whenever they show up I know winter is finally over.
3. I used to believe a unicorn lived in my neighbor's backyard.
4. If I could live anywhere in the world it would be in London.
5. I want to win a Newbery Award one day.
6. One day I will visit every continent on the globe.
7. I think I'm part hobbit. Specifically part Took... you know, the kind that's prone to wander.
8. I not-so-secretly wish I could live out of a gypsy wagon and just travel all over, never living anywhere too long.
9. I'm not a nerd but I don't think I qualify as a geek either. Dork might be close, but even that's not right.
10. I collect cool glass bottles, unique in color, shape, or size. I especially love jewel-tone glass.
11. Why drive when you can ride?
12. Why run when you can walk?
13. Trees DO make good landmarks.
14. In medieval England I would have been a witch; in Victorian times I would have been an old maid; in the sixties I would have been a hippie. Now I get to be all three.
15. Cheese is the reason God invented taste buds.
16. Writer's block is to me as a knight is to a dragon: a pesky, annoying thing that, if it gets you in your weak spot, could be the death of you.
17. Incense is better than a scented candle any day.
18. The only thing I don't like about the beach is sand. Fun to play with, but I hate how it sticks all over you and gets in everything and refuses to go away.
19. If the world was flat, how cool would it be as an astronaut to fly to the bottom? What if there was a whole race of alien life forms that lived life upside down?
20. Doors fascinate me. There's always something just out of sight on the other side.
21. If my feet were as big as clowns' shoes maybe I wouldn't sprain my ankles so much.
22. My celebrity crushes come in waves that last about two weeks. For two weeks I'm hopelessly devoted, then suddenly my interest just flits away.
23. I'm more interested in truth than religion.
24. I've found my way by sunlight, moonlight, lamplight, flashlight, and firelight, but never by starlight.
25. If life was a box of chocolates, I'd want to be the gummy bear that somehow slipped into the mix.

then, now, and soon

Where I've been. Where I'm at. Where I want to be.

I know where I've been, though sometimes I have a habit of forgetting. I've been on three continents, in at least a dozen countries, 30 or so US states. I've been in the high school drama club, the neighborhood pals detective agency, the "we-wanna-be-innovative" Creative Writing groupies at college, the Sunday school class, the summer camp, the fan convention, the best friend's wedding, the workplace, the closet.

I feel where I am like it's a weight in my lungs, but I also have the undeniable suspicion that, really, I'm seeing this all through (figurative) beer goggles, that what I think of my current situation is tainted by weariness, loneliness, listlessness, boredom, and confusion. Even just a few years ago the world seemed like a gift; it seemed like "magic" could be more than a fictional construct; it seemed like I could be a happy, functioning, "normal" individual. Growing up they seemed like inevitable steps: get A's in high school so you get into a good college; meet the future spouse in college and get married shortly after; work for a while until the 2 of you decide to start a family, then be a stay-at-home Mom (Note: NOT because I'd have to, or because it was expected of me, but because I'd want to stay at home and be with my kids, at least until they went to school). But what if you don't meet that person? (I haven't... yet) And what if a college education doesn't guarantee you a good job? And what if your faith in God, in the world and its mystery, in people as a whole, has faded?

I see myself working at a physically-taxing, mentally-unstimulating, majorly-underpaying job, with a mere handful of true friends and neither the energy nor imagination to engage in the creative projects I used to enjoy. I get spontaneous urges to drive away or fly away... to get the hell out, in other words. I feel like if I stand still too long I'll atrophy to the spot. And that, I guess, leads to the third topic of this evening's discussion: where I'm heading or where I want to be.

Actually, the "or" in that previous statement is deceiving; it implies that I think of those two phrases as being interchangeable. In truth, they are very different. Where I am heading is beyond my knowing; it is the unforeseen events of the future, a concrete thing, the one path I will eventually follow out of the myriads of ever-changing options. But where I want to be? "Not here" isn't a good enough answer, and as I've discovered this past year, "I don't know" pretty much accomplishes nothing. Do I want to be a librarian, or is that just an easy option for a down economy? Do I want to be a teacher, or does that dream now lie dead (Dorothy Parker reference, anyone?)? Do I want to be a filmmaker, an author, an artist? Do I want to write music, or make sculptures, or tap dance? (Yes, probably not, and yes) Do I want to travel, and if so... how will I manage it?

Hypothetical: You are dropped in a parachute in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night. You know the dawn is a long way off and it's too cold to stay in one place; you MUST move. But in which direction? You run the risk of wandering away from civilization and further outward into the unforgiving dark. With all 360 degrees of paths to choose from, you're lost. You must take a step, so how do you choose where to go?